This post is part of Linda G.Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday meme – an unedited stream of consciousness piece that ties into the weekly prompt: “vary/very” – as they are or with variations. I made use of both, in various ways (see what I did there?).
Today, I give you the first (and likely only, at least for a while) SoCS story from my April #CampNaNoWriMo project: Generations, Volume #2 of my Kifo Island Chronicles series-in-progress. It’s unedited except for typos, with more repetition and less clarity than it will eventually have. This stream-of-consciousness drafting is from Scene 1, where we meet Gladys, a very elderly woman; Howard, her adopted and recently widowed grandson; and Iris, Howard’s misunderstood and unwanted stepdaughter.
I’ve found it difficult to write this novel. The characters are demanding that I tell their stories, but they aren’t sweet, uplifting stories. As I was plotting, things made a hard left turn into dark places. Some I know intimately well from my own life; others sprang from the characters themselves, and very little of what will happen is sweet or comforting. As a result, this might be the most uncomfortable SoCS post I’ve ever written…
Disclaimer: This scene has triggers for predjudice and mistreatment of a child, and a PG-13 rating for language and suggestiveness. Please be advised.
Iris yanked her hand back under the quilt; and huddled into the customary crouch, her large dark eyes not quite watching Howard, but not shifting their focus from him.
“Laws aren’t perfect, Howard. Not for any of us. I did what I could for you; now it’s your turn to do what you can for this young soul given into your keeping. She deserves better than to be struck, or for you to be always kicking her with your voice, as though she’s nothing more than a stone. She deserves the chance to smile, and laugh, and play, and to know that she’s safe – ”
“I wasn’t.” His chin jutted as though he were the child, and not the little dark girl who sat statue-still, and only watched, her expression never varying.
“You were, here.” Gladys knew it was wisest not to add that there were far too many smaller creatures that were not, when Howard was with her.
“Then why the hell did you keep sending me back to that bitch of a daughter of yours, and every man she invited into her- ”
“Enough.” Gladys raised a hand; it shook with a warning tremor. “There is a very lonely child here, right now, Howard, and she is your responsibility You are the adult, now, and you can choose how you’ll meet her needs – for clothing and shelter, for nurturing, for laughter and play and delight – ”
“Ha! If you only knew what this little half-black -”
“Howard. Iris may not speak, but I am quite certain that she can hear, and understand.” The shaking was moving up her hand, into her arm, and Gladys used the other to move it, in an attempt to settle it. Usually, the medications worked well, but her doctor had told her that their effectiveness might vary, if she were under stress.
Howard bolted up, glaring at her, then the child, who drew back into herself, but never eased her vigilant watching. “If she can hear, and understand, then she should damned well be able to answer me when I speak to her!” He yanked the quilt away, tossed it across the floor. “You coddle her, let her pretend she’s too dumb to speak, let her perch in that chair as though she’s some freakish little bird, and not a kid.”
“I coddled you, too, Howard -and you had a mother. This child doesn’t anymore – don’t you think she deserves a bit of comfort?”
“Deserves? Deserves?! I was tricked, Grandma Gladys – I never wanted that little brat; not any little brat. All kids do is eat and cause trouble.”
“What trouble has she caused?” Gladys wanted a calm tone, but an edge crept in, sharp and too shrill. Howard had always hated shrill.
“We’re fighting, aren’t we? Would we be, if she weren’t here?” He took a step toward the child, but Iris didn’t vary her posture even a fraction – she was like nothing so much as a deer pinned by headlights, unable to move. “You buy her ridiculous things like that tea set – why the hell did you get that, when you never bought me a tea set?”
“Did you want a tea set, Howard?”
“That’s not the point. You never bought me one.”
“I’m your grandmother, not your mother. You are her father – ”
“You can take one look at her and see I’m not!”
“Biologically, no. But when you married her mother, Howard, you became a de facto parent to her child. Now Aijo is dead, and Iris has no one else.” Gladys looked at the middle-aged man claiming her living room with his wide-legged stance, and saw the little boy with tousled blonde curls and one balled fist clutching a slingshot, trying so very hard not to cry.
“She has you! I hope the two of you enjoy the hell out of each other – an old woman and a mute little brat!”
Howard turned and stomped out the door, slamming it so hard that every window in the house rattled.
What will happen now? Will Iris find her voice? Can Gladys help her feel safe? Is Howard gone for good? Would it be better if he was?
We’ll have to see.
Have you tried stream-of consciousness writing? Come join in – there’s just a few simple rules.